16/08/2018 by socialistfight
Belfast Riots in July 1920
Since the launch of the Socialist Fight magazine in 2009 we have been particularly focused on opposition to British imperialism in Ireland; every one of the 27 issues of our magazine have carried a list of the Irish Republican Prisoners and defended their right to oppose the British occupation of the north of Ireland. No other left group in Britain, apart from the Revolutionary Communist Group, pays such attention to Britain’s oldest colony and the touchstone for the anti-imperialism of every British socialist. Few make the grade now.
Republican POWs are heroic fighters for Ireland’s right of self-determination and the expulsion of British imperialist troops from Ireland, where they have no right to be. They rejected the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) because it enshrined the Loyalist Veto over a united Ireland and legitimised the illegitimate state of ‘Northern Ireland’.
Partition was imposed by Britain and by Orange Order, Carson-inspired thugs in the “Belfast Confetti” pogroms of July-September 1920; 11,000 nationalists were driven from the shipyards and mills. Only revolution in Ireland which combines anti-imperialism and socialist revolution will reverse this appalling injustice.
We reject the workerist, syndicalist theories proposed by groups like the AWL, the Socialist Party (Grantites) and the SWP that the problems in the north of Ireland are a result of sectarianism on both sides and that both sides are equally bad. Similarly, we reject the inter-penetrated theories of the ‘Spartacist family’ (ICL-IBT and LFI) who legitimised Loyalist reaction as a “not yet a nation” in its 1977 Theses on Ireland [i]. Obfuscating the essence of the conflict here (and in Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus and Uganda, to mention but a few cases) [ii] they continually refer to the conflict between ‘Catholics’ and ‘Protestants’ and not the correct political terms ‘loyalist’ and ‘Unionist’ vs ‘nationalists’ and ‘Republicans’. They explicitly reject the Leninist-Trotskyist position on the rights of nations to self-determination here:
“In particular, in the case of interpenetrated peoples sharing a common territory, we oppose the exercise of self-determination by one nation where this flatly conflicts with the same right for another nation.”
Then, seemingly aware that in “Northern Ireland” the ‘Protestants’ do not constitute a nation, and do not want to be a nation, go on to say:
“Though not yet a nation, the Protestants are certainly not a part of the Irish nation and are distinct from the Scottish and English nations. Presently their separate existence is defined in large part as against the Irish Catholic nation and at the ideological level is expressed in religious terms.”
This poses the question, “are the ‘Protestants’ about to become a nation in the near future?” But then James Robertson, who clearly wrote this document from a WASP perspective, thought he was making a big step forward from the previous Spart position which was for an Independent Socialist Ulster and Independent Socialist Ireland as part of the Socialist Federation of the British Isles. Only a WASP could write such garbage and expect it to gain support in Ireland. This idiotic perspective was put forward by the Loyalist killers Tommy “Tucker” Lyttle, and Glen Barr in their counter-revolutionary uprising, the Ulster Workers’ Council strike against the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974, which impressed the Socialist Party so much. [iii]
In general, while seeking to develop our own section in Ireland we critically politically support the Republican Socialist tradition in Ireland, who seek to combine the national and the social revolution, as James Connolly had done, in a revolutionary manner which is approaching Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. Although the famous quote “hold on to your rifles” attributed to Connolly by Desmond Greaves has been challenged for reliable provenance by John Newsinger and others but D.R. O’Connor Lysaght points to an article which appeared thirty years prior to the Greaves book: John O’Keefe’s ‘Citizen Army Veteran’s Memories of 1913-1916:
“Connolly’s address to the Citizen Army a couple of days before the Rising should never be forgotten by the Irish workers. ‘Being the lesser party’, he said, ‘we join in this fight with our comrades of the Irish Volunteers. But hold your arms. If we succeed, those who are our comrades today we may be compelled to fight tomorrow.’ And when one of our number raised the question of our strength came the reply: ‘The people will help.’” [iv]
Like the Russian Revolutions of February and October 1917 Connolly was clearly pointing to one revolution with stages within it, not to the Stalinist two stages separated by a historical period; the latter amounts to a political defence of the bourgeois nationalism against the workers in revolution.
The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s. Northern Ireland’s present devolved system of government is based on the Agreement. The Agreement also created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The Agreement is made up of two inter-related documents, both agreed in Belfast on Good Friday, 10 April 1998:
- A multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties;
- An international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British-Irish Agreement).
The Good Friday Agreement set out a complex series of provisions relating to a number of areas:
- The status and system of government of Northern Ireland within the UK. (Strand 1)
- The relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. (Strand 2)
- The relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. (Strand 3)
Central to the Agreement were the following issues:
- Civil and cultural rights,
- Decommissioning of weapons, and
- Justice and policing
The Agreement was approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referendums held on 22 May 1998.
- In Northern Ireland, voters were asked whether they supported the multi-party agreement.
- In the Republic of Ireland, voters were asked whether they would allow the state to sign the agreement and allow necessary constitutional changes to facilitate it.
The people of both jurisdictions needed to approve the Agreement in order to give effect to it.
The British-Irish Agreement came into force on 2 December 1999.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was the only major political group in Northern Ireland to oppose the Agreement.
No support for the Good Friday Agreement
All sincere socialists, of course, welcome the virtual ending of such tit-for-tat sectarian killings that went on during the ‘troubles’. These were mainly carried out by Loyalists murder gangs, like the infamous Glenanne gang, which was made up of a coalition of Loyalists, British soldiers, and RUC officers, assisted by British Army intelligence and MI5. They are estimated to have killed about 120 mainly random Catholic civilians with no links to Irish republican paramilitaries. There were also some unfortunate incidents of the killing of innocent Protestant workers and worshipers on the nationalist side; the Kingsmill massacre of Protestant workers on 5 January 1976 and the Darkley massacre of worshipers on 20 November 1983 which we unreservedly condemn, despite the severe provocations.
The GFA accepted the Loyalist Veto (the Spart Family accepted it with that Theses on Ireland in 1977, over 20 years before Gerry Adams) and legitimised the British occupation of the six northeastern counties of the Irish nation and no serious Trotskyist could have accepted that. The GFA was imposed by the Provos post 1998 in a mini-civil war which Mo Mowlem referred to as “internal housekeeping”.
Slugger O’Tool exposed this in a 2010 article, The Killing of Joe O’Connor:
“Prior to Joe O’Connor’s murder, Charles Bennett and Andrew Kearney had been murdered by the Provos in North Belfast. Andrew’s mother, Maureen, from Twinbrook, was one of the first to break ranks and speak out against the organisation that brutally killed her son. In a sense, her speaking out was the start of a shadow peace process, one that has never been acknowledged and today exists amongst those families seeking the truth of what happened to their loved ones.”
Of course, the murders and savage beatings of ‘dissidents’ were never investigated by the RUC/PSNI; Mo Mowlem and Tony Blair had approved them. These hold-out principled Irish Republicans deserve the solidarity and support of all serious British internationalist socialists.
Gabriel Mackle and Neil Hegarty interned
On 9 November 2017 Gabriel Mackle was arrested in his home by the RUC/PSNI leaving his wife and two small children traumatised. On an order from the British Secretary of State Gabriel’s licence was revoked and he was taken straight back to Maghaberry goal, from which he had been released in August after serving over three years. As with Tony Taylor and Neil Hegarty this is effectively internment without charge or trial and is based solely on their Republican political beliefs of opposing the sell-out of Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein to British imperialism.
On 7 December Neil Hegarty’s licence was revoked, he was arrested by armed police and returned to Maghaberry. Saoradh reported that:
“Neil was only released on 5th December after five years in gaol and had been at home with family and friends celebrating his release when armed Crown Forces arrived to return him to captivity … Neil Hegarty is an unashamed Irish Republican, who has been returned to captivity by a foreign government with no right to be in Ireland. He is yet another victim of Internment via revocation of licence and should be released back to his family immediately.”
Free Brendan McConville, John Paul Wotton and Tony Taylor
The two young men were convicted of the killing of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll in March 2009. These two men are innocent, that they have been wrongfully convicted and are victims of another frameup by the British State. The late Gerry Conlon, of the Guildford 4, many Irish TDs and public figures have recognised their innocence and campaigned for them.
On 10 March 2016 armed police surrounded Tony Taylor’s family car he was arrested and taken to Maghaberry prison. Tony’s solicitor has been told that he was returned to gaol on the basis of intelligence reports that he cannot see or challenge.
This is a case of internment in all but name. He has now been held without charge or information on why he was incarcerated since 10 March 2016. Tony has positively contributed to local politics in Derry by peacefully raising benefit cuts, prison conditions and policing issues before his arrest, which was entirely prompted by his political stance against British occupation of the six counties; there were no “illegal activities”. He “spearheaded the revival of RNU in Derry”, his real ‘crime’.
No to the Extraditions of Liam Campbell
Irish Republicans have been extradited from the Free State to the 6 counties in the recent past. When extradited they face the same inhuman torture, beatings and forced strip searching endured by all Irish POWs there.
Liam Campbell is facing extradition to Lithuania. Judgement is pending in the case. If extradited and found guilty, he faces a potential sentence of 20 years. The IRPSG campaigned for Liam Campbell’s brother, Michael, in 2012 and 2013; we put a motion defending him to the 2013 LRC AGM. Led by our new Chair John Carty, we will campaign for Liam now.
In October 2013 Michael was acquitted of all charges in Lithuania because the court believed he was framed by MI5. His lawyer said “a person cannot be sentenced for a crime committed by state officials. He was acquitted because the court found that what he was accused of was a provocation. It was just an activity of the state security services,” she said.
We picketed the Irish Embassy in London on 20 April 2012 and the Lithuanian Embassy on 6 Match 2012 on Michael and Liam’s behalf with the following flyer text:
“Michael Campbell was set up in a ‘sting’ operation by MI5, the Irish and Lithuanian intelligence agencies and jailed in Lithuania on 21 October 2011 for 12 years. The spooks had in fact initiated the arms deal on which he was convicted. His lawyer, Ingrida Botyriene, said: “He would never be involved in arms deals and would never go to Lithuania for such an affair if he had not been provoked by secret agents.”
Following his sentencing, the Lithuanian Director of Public Prosecution has indicated that they intend to hold a new trial; he wrote to an IRPSG supporter (the late Michael Holden):
“The DPP appealed the case, he was not happy with 12 years, wants 16 but case could go on for 2 years. The DPP originally demanded 16 years. This is a travesty, he has been tried and sentenced, he should now be repatriated to serve his time in Ireland, where his family can visit him.”
Similarly, we demand that the British authorities cease the hounding of his brother Liam who wrote to the IRPSG; “I am held here in Maghaberry prison by the Brits. They want to extradite me to Lithuania, a country I was never in. So I am here for two and a half now where I have no rights as an Irish man up in front of a Brit judge in my own country”.
We like to think that, in conjunction with the campaign in Ireland, we contributed something towards Michael’s release in October 2013. And we will struggle to defend Liam now too.
IRPWA reports discrimination against Irish cultural identity in Maghaberry
On 05/10/2016 a prison governor responded to a solicitor’s letter stating:
“The Northern Ireland Prison Service has over recent months been required to remove such (sic) inflammatory items such as Irish tricolours and signs erected by prisoners in Irish.”
This is a response to a challenge regarding a printed issue the ‘Scairt Amach’ magazine which was refused although it was composed in the jail to begin with. It is clear, however, that the Irish language and national flag are ‘inflammatory’.
In response to a challenge regarding CD’s being denied entry on 07/07/2016 the security governor wrote:
“Several songs included in the CD your client has requested are inextricably linked to the 1916 Rising and other Republican terrorist campaigns since then (straightforward Loyalist propaganda—IRPSG!). These include Kevin Barry, The Time has Come, The Broad Black Brimmer, The Men Behind the Wire. These songs glorify armed insurrection and rebellion, prison related deaths of Republican terrorists and are supportive of terrorist organisations (past and present)”.
Nothing speaks more of the illegitimate nature of the northern state and its bigoted refusal to acknowledge the rights of Irish people to their own language, culture, nationality and statehood; the of self-determination of the Irish nation as a whole.
[i] Spartacist no 24, Autumn 1977, Theses on Ireland, http://www.workersrepublic.org/Pages/Ireland/Trotskyism/thesesonireland2.html
[ii] See The Spartacist Family and the National Question, https://socialistfight.com/2018/06/04/the-spartacist-family-and-the-national-question/, IDOT 20, Gerry Downing, Ireland and Palestine: Interpenetrated peoples and the rights of oppressed nations to self-determination, https://socialistfight.com/2016/01/28/ireland-and-palestine-interpenetrated-peoples-and-the-rights-of-oppressed-nations-to-self-determination/, The International Bolshevik Tendency and Interpenetrated Peoples – A clarification, https://socialistfight.com/2016/02/07/the-international-bolshevik-tendency-and-interpenetrated-peoples-a-clarification/
[iii] Nevertheless, the (Ulster Workers Council) strike also demonstrated in a distorted form and on a reactionary issue, the colossal power of the working class when it moves into action.” Militant International Review No. 9, 10th June 1974, https://socialistfight.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/idot-8.pdf
[iv] ‘Hold on to your rifles’ and ‘Let no shot be fired in Ulster’: notes on two remarks attributed to Connolly